MAGA Ghost Flag
MAGA Ghost Flag: cotton thread on canvas, 48"x 58" 2018
Once the campaign began, Trump traveled from one rally to the next with his two part agenda. One was to create a border wall to keep out asylum seekers. The other was how he was going to "Make America Great Again". My initial reaction was to question, "How great does America have to be"? It is already one of the most respected and envied Nations in the world. I eventually turned on one of his rallies and was struck by the use of the American flags and the red, white and blue. It appeared that when a supporter attended a rally, they would be given a red baseball hat with MAGA on it along with a Trump rally sign. The attendees were prompted to wear the red MAGA hats at all times and to wave their rally signs at calculated moments.
I had a big problem with both the flag waving and the MAGA hats. The way the American flag was being used, it seemed to be suggesting that only Republican Trump supporters were "real" Americans and therefore the flag was their property. I had always believed that the "Stars and Stripes" was a physical icon of America's totality. Equally, I couldn't accept the notion that America had become so damaged that it was in need of a "greatness" paradigm shift.
I had recently been to my son's house to help him with repairs when we discovered an old American flag stored in the basement rafters of the house he had recently purchased. Close investigation revealed that is was a flag from the 40's and since it was stored in a house in Cincinnati, a war production hub of WWII, it carried a great deal of emotional history as the flag flown in yards when the surviving troops returned to their homes after World War II. He, knowing I liked to collect things and seeing the excitement in my eyes as we unrolled it, gave it to me. I brought it back home.
As I began to journal and sketch ideas for addressing the idea of MAGA, I brought out the flag and mounted it on the wall and began to focus on it. The response was to make my own flag. After thinking of all the ways one would make a flag, it was decided to hand sew it. I took the measurements from the old flag and began to cut all of the parts of it out of a piece of canvas. Once they were all cut to scale, I started sewing from the bottom up. After sewing the first two stripes together using a lock stitch, I began to pay attention to seam being created on the back side of the flag and liked the look. But I was creating a flag and I didn't think it would be appropriate to show the sewn side of the flag because it was too messy even though it looked interesting.
Just as the flag had its first pieces sewn together, the family was to traveling to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter and her husband. The flag pieces came along and work on it filled down time at the B&B we stayed in. I also thought my son and daughter would get a kick out of what I was up to. The back side of the sewn seams continued to be visually attracting. It finally came to me while taking a hike on a swamp trail outside West Palm Beach. The attraction to the stitching was its messy appearance and how it was holding the elements of the flag together. It occurred that the messy stitching could be the function of the flag. Democracy is messy and frantic at times and it should be represented as such on a flag.
The back side was now its front. The next question was to assess how the stitching could function to represent important elements of the American fabric. I had rationalized that the main purpose of stitching was to hold cloth together which led to the idea that thread was like humanity in any social collective. It is the intertwining relationships that hold it together. Concluding that it was stitching" that holds us together." This further lead to a decision to use thread that represents all of the colors of America's ethnic population. I removed the white thread of the sewn parts finished and started over using all colors including LGBTQ colors so the flag would say to passersby, "this flag is striving for the power of a social orderly disorder, a freedom of messiness, and an ongoing celebration of our social commitment to diversity."
When applying the stars, I mixed thread colors together as a celebration of the freedom individuals have in America to choose their relationships. There were some stars left without any treatment, meaning that there were things to come in the future, that the story of the nation was on going. In the end, the flag was an attempt to point out that it is the humanity, in all of its diversity, that holds America together and makes it great and that the colors of red, white and blue do have symbolic value; but isn't at core of American greatness.